Charlene was signed to Motown Records, but this has been her only hit save for a late 1982 duet with Stevie Wonder, "Used to Be (Featuring Stevie Wonder)", which charted but failed to make the top 40.
Charlene did two versions of the song. The version which was initially released was actually the second version which Charlene recorded. Her original version (which became more popular) has an expanded bridge, over which the singer makes an impassioned comparison between the non-committal "fantasy about people and places as we'd like them to be," versus the committed real love of a family.
In 1982, Tampa, Florida disc jockey Scott Shannon, then at WRBQ (Q105), started playing it, by which time Charlene had moved to England and was working in a sweet shop in Ilford, east London. Audience reaction was impressive, and spread quickly, resulting in the song's re-issuance by Charlene's label, the version WITH the original spoken bridge. The re-release became a huge hit in the UK.
The use of the line "I've been to crying for unborn children that might have made me complete", refers to a woman who is at a point in her life that she wished she had taken the time to have children. However, this was deemed too close to "feminist" issues and when Charlene's song was first released in 1976, the version used was the one without that portion (which is not part of the spoken bridge). Another line is written "I've been undressed by kings and I've seen somethings that a woman ain't supposed to see", it tells of the event that resulted to downfall of her life after she moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo (Harlow here is Jean Harlow, an American actress and sex symbol) while taking time with pleasures.
Originally written from a male point of view, the song was rewritten by Ron Miller for Charlene. The male version (made popular by actor/singer Howard Keel) is sung from the perspective of an old man begging for a dime for a cup of coffee, addressing a younger man who is "raising hell" the way the old man used to do. The female version is sung to a housewife who wishes that she could trade her everyday life for the exciting, fantastic life led by the singer. The singer tells of some of the highlights of her life, but the tone is bittersweet and she wishes that someone had told her what she is telling the listener. She has learned what is important, but now it is too late. At her downfall, she finds her life hollow and without purpose, having lost her real self years before — the "me" she has never been to, is the life that she would have led if she had not been lured away by false ideas.
When this song was first released in the US, in 1976, Charlene's full name was Charlene Duncan through her marriage to record producer Larry Duncan, but when the song was released for a second time in 1982, the name she had taken was Charlene Oliver because of her marriage to Englishman Jeff Oliver.
It soon rose to the top of the Pop charts and Adult Contemporary charts that year. Her LP album I've Never Been to Me, released in 1982 proved to also be successful for Charlene. Her song was one of the biggest hits of the year and became a standard in pop music.
Charlene has not yet been able to follow-up the success of her one big hit "I've Never Been to Me", but has continued to record and release songs to the public. She released another album in 1983, but was not so successful.
Because of her one big hit, Charlene became a one-hit-wonder in music. Charlene and her big hit "I've Never Been to Me" were featured on VH1's 100 Greatest One-hit Wonders show, hosted by William Shatner in 2002. Her position on that list was at #75.
Charlene re-released the song in the form of a dance remix via download music in 2008